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The Curse of Tippecanoe
The Curse of Tippecanoe
February 15, 2024

Thorold Charles Reep’s “Ruination” of Soccer

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Thorold Charles Reep is often seen as the cheerful fellow who destroyed football through over-analysis of the game. He was what one may consider a regular game analyst under current standards, yet his method of coaching brought upon heavy criticism. At his peak, he led teams to victory against the odds on the field, but this success came at the cost of the game’s strategy.

Reep would later become the face of controversy, especially within English football. His studies were unique at his time, but they would now be considered some of the most basic analyses of the game. As Reep himself explained, “I must emphasize that my methods are not a declaration of how football should be played, but it is the most efficient way.” 

Oftentimes, Reep visited Highbury to watch Arsenal play during the golden period of the team’s career. Arsenal captain Charles Jones agreed to give two three-hour lectures on football tactics. Reep sat in the front row, taking notes like a madman as Jones explained they hit long balls to the wingers and play up the field.

With this lecture came Reep’s inspiration to start as a football analyst. Four years later, he was posted to Iraq and was in charge of their team; immediately, he deployed the tactics that he had heard Jones explain.

After WWII, he returned to RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire and was appointed head of football. He was allowed to build his own team around his ideals, mainly focusing on “Loose Balls in the Goalmouth”, another term for general performance analysis, which proved to be successful.

At the same time, Reep continued to collect his football data, using thousands of symbols to show the plays in games that he watched. His handwriting was stilted and barely readable, yet to him, it made perfect sense. At this point, Reep had made undeniable progress within the world of football.

However, further into his career, his reputation suffered. It was interpreted that Reep only wanted to, as many put it, “hoof the ball forwards.” Instead of playing the game with strategy, he played the game with brute force.

At 97 in 2002, Reep died. Like most of his life, his death passed under the radar. However, he made significant changes to the analysis of the game, though many still accuse him of ruining it. As Reep once said, “Obviously it’s because I’ve put a question mark against so many aspects of the game. Though he may have turned football from a strategy-based competition to one revolving around data and numbers, he, too, was a lover of the sport; he simply wished to see it grow.

 

 

Sources:

“Charles Reep: The Military Accountant Who Brought Data Analysis to English Game.” BBC Sport, BBC, www.bbc.com/sport/football/61648608#:~:text=%22I%20must%20 emphasize%20that%20my,is%20the%20most%20 efficient%20way.%22. Accessed 26 Jan. 2024.

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